News release

New study aims to predict risk of cancer

Ref: 12/183

17 October 2012

New study aims to predict risk of cancer

Study aims to help patient referral process

New research at the University of Southampton aims to develop a way of predicting who is more at risk of getting cancer.

Led by Paul Little, Professor of Primary Care Research, the CANcer DIagnosis Decision rules (CANDID) study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Primary Care Research (NIHR SPCR), will collect and analyse clinical information and blood samples from 20,000 patients who have had lung or colon cancer. The aim is to determine which signs and symptoms are most predictive of those who go on to be diagnosed with the disease.

Genetic testing will be carried out after the recruitment phase of the study to establish how much extra information genetics provides over and above the clinical information.

The £2 million five-year study is the largest award made by the NIHR SPCR and aims to improve the referral process patients go through before being diagnosed. Currently GPs must refer urgent cases within two weeks and for other cases, up to 62 days for referral; however it has been reported that some patients have to wait much longer and some have visited their GP more than once before being referred.

Professor Little comments: “We need to improve both the early referral rates for cancer but, at the same time, we do not want to overload the system with lots of people who are at a low risk of having cancer and may have negative side-effects of being over-investigated. Waiting for results and dealing with the possibility of having cancer can be a distressing and daunting time for patients and their families, our research aims to aid the patient pathway and help medical professionals, so every patient is dealt with in the most appropriate way and in a timely fashion.”

The study will use patient samples from the eight centres within the NIHR National School for Primary Research: Southampton, Oxford, Bristol, Birmingham, Nottingham, University College London, Manchester and Keele.

The NIHR SPCR Director, Professor Richard Hobbs adds: ‘The NIHR School for Primary Care Research is pleased to be supporting this ambitious new study, the funding for which was made possible after we had redesigned the way that the School funds its research to enable larger, collaborative, longer term research to compete with short term single centre studies.

“The UK presently spends only around 5 per cent of its overall health research budgets on prevention and for many diseases, and cancer in particular, the earlier it is recognised and diagnosed, the better the prognosis or outcomes. This is why CANDID is important for patients and the NHS. Pleasingly, this major prospective research also builds on earlier research into symptoms that may predict cancer based on retrospective data, some of which was also supported by the NIHR SPCR.”